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Women and Heart Attacks: Secret to Survival?

Posted by on August 16th, 2018

Picture of a woman holding a heart.

“Heart Disease in Women” via MedlinePlus, August 23, 2016, Public Domain.

Heart disease can be deadly.  In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that heart disease is the leading cause of death in women.  The estimated prevalence is 1 in 4 female deaths is due to heart disease.  The most common form of heart disease for women is coronary artery disease (CAD) but they are also at risk for coronary microvascular disease (MVD) and broken heart syndrome.

CAD increases the risk for a heart attack.  This occurs when the blood flow to the heart stops due to a blockage.  This prevents the heart from getting oxygen that then results in heart tissue dying or even death.  During a heart attack, quick treatment is recommended and many providers urge that minutes matter.  Could the gender of the physician providing treatment matter, too?

A recent review of nearly 582,000 cases than span a 19 year history revealed data that suggests the gender of the physician does matter for women seeking treatment for a heart attack.  Women who have heart attacks have a higher rate of survival when their physician is also a woman.  Seth Carnahan is part of the team that did the review.  He said, “You have highly trained experts with life or death on the line, and yet the gender match between the physician and the patient seems to matter a great deal.”

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